In 1998, when I had a sore on my tongue that wouldn’t heal, the world-wide web was in it’s infancy and not a place to easily ‘surf’ for information. Today, individuals with something abnormal in their oral cavity often investigate online. On this website, I make my contact information available to anyone with questions, feeling like they don’t know what to do next. Sometimes, people I speak with simply need a nudge to visit a dentist or oral surgeon because the concern they have is worth their time and piece of mind to have checked out. Other people I speak with feel thwarted to act from anxiety about what it could be and I have the opportunity to arm them with information: if it’s caught early, it’s very survivable. Or I encourage them to seek attention from a dental professional who can rule out cancer.
Below is a compilation of the suggestions I’ve given to the many people I’ve communicated with:
TAKE PHOTOS! Keep a visual record of what you see and/or feel.
Have a bright light source easily accessible in your bathroom so you can get a really good look in your mouth. If there are any changes, take a photograph and call your dentist.
Be sure you are getting a Six-Step Screening at your dental check-up. A thorough oral cancer screening should take about three minutes. If you are not getting one, you should find a new dental practice.
When making an appointment, ask the receptionist if the dentist and the hygienist have had current education in recognizing the early signs of oral cancer. Ask if they use a dental screening device and how much they charge for that test. Know your options before you are put on the spot.
If you are not getting answers that satisfy you, seek attention from an oral medicine specialist at a dental school or an otolaryngologist at a medical center.
If you are afraid of a biopsy, a screening device (VELscope, Identafi, Oral CDX Brush Test, Vizilite…) may help determine if a biopsy is recommended.
Don’t watch and wait for more than two weeks. The mouth heals faster than any other part of the body. If something persists for more than 14 days, it may be abnormal and needs to be followed and treated by an expert.
Schedule an appointment with a dentist who has a speciality in oral medicine.
A Biopsy: What You Need to Know
A biopsy is NOT 100% reliable. If the problem persists, have the biopsy reread or redone. Be sure your pathology is read by an Oral Pathologist (not a General Pathologist). This is critical.
If your dental professionals do not schedule you to return for a follow-up, don’t assume it’s nothing. There is a progression from normal to cancerous. No one knows how a lesion will progress. A biopsy may be negative for cancer, but it’s positive for something.
Rule out cancer! If something is abnormal in your mouth or throat, don’t give up. Persist until you are satisfied with the course of action and follow-up treatment.
According to Tufts University Oral Pathologist Dr. Michael Kahn: Overall only about 50% of biopsied clinical leukoplakias show epithelial dysplasia. A maximum of 50% of severe dysplasias, 30% of moderate dysplasias and very few (<5%) mild dysplasia are thought to progress to cancer. Dr. Kahn recommends that ALL dysplasia be removed with clear margins.
Photos of Oral Cancer
The only information I have about these photos is what you see written.
None of the information contained on this website is intended to be, nor should it be used as advice by a dental professional. The information is being provided solely for the purpose of raising awareness about the importance of proper oral cancer screenings. If you have any concern about an abnormality in your mouth, throat, or neck, see a dentist or oral surgeon immediately.